Sitting for long periods 'is bad for your health'

 
Watching TV Not the best thing to do after a day sitting at your desk

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Sitting for long periods increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and death, researchers suggest.

The scientists from Leicester and Loughborough Universities say harm is done even if people also exercise.

The study, published in Diabetologia, analysed 18 existing studies involving almost 800,000 people.

Diabetes UK said anyone who spent a lot of time sitting or lying down would "obviously benefit" from moving more.

The researchers say the opportunities for sedentary behaviour in modern society such as watching TV, sitting in a car or using a computer are "ubiquitous".

Of course, in modern society many people head to the gym for a burst of exercise to redress the balance.

But the research team, led by Dr Emma Wilmot from the Diabetes Group at the University of Leicester, says while going to the gym or pool after work is better than heading straight for the sofa, spending a long time sitting down remains bad for you.

Healthy lifestyle?

Each of the studies they assessed used different measures - for example more or less than 14 hours a week watching TV, or self-reported sitting time of less than three hours a day to more than eight.

The researchers say this means it is not possible to give an absolute limit for how much sedentary time is bad for you.

But Dr Emma Wilmot, who led the study, said it was clear that those who sat the most had a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease and death than those who sat the least.

Start Quote

We can have standing meetings, we can walk during the lunch break, and we can look to reduce TV viewing in the evenings by seeking out less sedentary behaviours”

End Quote Prof Stuart Biddle, Loughborough University

She said: "If a worker sits at their desk all day then goes to the gym, while their colleague heads home to watch TV, then the gym-goer will have better health outcomes.

"But there is still a health risk because of the amount of sitting they do.

"Comparatively, the risk for a waiter who is on their feet all day is going to be a lot lower."

She added: "People convince themselves they are living a healthy lifestyle, doing their 30 minutes of exercise a day.

"But they need to think about the other 23.5 hours."

'Easy change'

The strongest associations in the analysis were between prolonged sitting and diabetes.

There is evidence that being sedentary negatively affects glucose levels and increases insulin resistance - but scientists do not yet know how.

Dr Wilmot said the study's message could help those at high risk of diabetes, such as obese people or those of South Asian ethnic origin, because it was an easy lifestyle change to make.

Prof Stuart Biddle, of Loughborough University, who also worked on the study, said: "There are many ways we can reduce our sitting time, such as breaking up long periods at the computer at work by placing our laptop on a filing cabinet.

"We can have standing meetings, we can walk during the lunch break, and we can look to reduce TV viewing in the evenings by seeking out less sedentary behaviours."

Dr Matthew Hobbs, head of research at Diabetes UK, said people should not be discouraged from exercising.

He added: "What is clear is that anyone who spends lots of time sitting or lying down would benefit from replacing some of that time by standing or walking.

"Aside from any direct effect reducing the amount of time you spend sitting down may have, getting more physical activity is a great way of helping maintain a healthy weight, which is the best way of minimising your risk of Type 2 diabetes."

 

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  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 109.

    Standing meetings are a great idea. I often do it, even if I am the only one. It's better than falling asleep.
    Work a desk job standing up! And once an hour or so, sit down and relax your legs.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 105.

    To all those who think the study is a waste of time. The study backs up anecdotal evidence observed by every healthcare worker. I am told by a consultant he is treating 4 times the patients for complications from diabetes compared to 25 years ago. He notes that inactivity is an even greater factor than being overweight. Don't take to sitting, get away from your desk at lunchtime, take a walk etc.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 46.

    Have to agree with below comments, this "study" is a complete waste of time. How much time, money and effort was spend to determine that sitting down was bad for your health ? But is it the same scientist that also say that exercising is bad for you, eating is bad for you, crossing the road is...... Oh you get the idea.
    Life is for living, everything in moderation !

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 44.

    I always thought that in a desk job you should get up at least once an hour and have a walk. Also this helps when using a computer screen. I also prefer to go to talk to somebody in the same office rather than email or phone. As for spending a long time wathing TV, I cannot remember the last program which was over an hour long I wanted to watch. And of course take a walk in ad breaks.

  • rate this
    -15

    Comment number 26.

    Why do these scientists feel the need to get on a high horse all the time? There's nothing that we can do other than installing treadmills behind every school and office desk.

    They've reached a point where preventative medicine is not an option, so why don't they just get on with finding cures for these diseases rather than lecturing us?!

 

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